The synthetic instrument: From sparse association to sparse causation

Wednesday, November 15, 2023 15:30to16:30

Linbo Wang, PhD

Assistant Professor
Department of Statistical Sciences | University of Toronto

WHEN: Wednesday, November 15, 2023, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

WHERE: Hybrid | 2001 McGill College, Rm 1140 | Zoom &

Note: Dr. Wang will present from Toronto


In many observational studies, researchers are often interested in studying the effects of multiple exposures on a single outcome. Standard approaches for high-dimensional data such as the lasso assume the associations between the exposures and the outcome are sparse. These methods, however, do not estimate the causal effects in the presence of unmeasured confounding. In this paper, we consider an alternative approach that assumes the causal effects in view are sparse. We show that with sparse causation, the causal effects are identifiable even with unmeasured confounding. At the core of our proposal is a novel device, called the synthetic instrument, that in contrast to standard instrumental variables, can be constructed using the observed exposures directly. We show that under linear structural equation models, the problem of causal effect estimation can be formulated as an ℓ0-penalization problem, and hence can be solved efficiently using off-the-shelf software. Simulations show that our approach outperforms state-of-art methods in both low-dimensional and high-dimensional settings. We further illustrate our method using a mouse obesity dataset.

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